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Falcons rally around Vick after Moras father says QB is a coach killer
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The Atlanta Falcons closed ranks around embattled quarterback Michael Vick, who was clearly stunned by reports that Jim Mora’s father referred to No. 7 as a ‘‘coach killer.’’
    Vick said Wednesday that he shut off his cell phone because he was getting so many calls about comments made by Mora’s father, a former NFL coach himself who shares the same name with his son.
    ‘‘Honestly, I don’t even know what to say,’’ Vick said. ‘‘I think it was inappropriate. But, hey, when you’re commentating, I guess you’ve got a right to say what you want to say. I just keep playing football. At the same time, it’s crazy.’’
    Earlier this week, during his show on Fox Sports Radio, the elder Mora agreed with the co-host’s description of Vick as a ‘‘coach killer.’’
    ‘‘It worries me a little bit because my son is the head coach down there,’’ Mora added. ‘‘But he’s a great athlete, my son likes him a lot, he’s a good kid. But he’s not a passer. And you need a passer at quarterback to be successful consistently in the National Football League. And he ain’t getting it done in that category.’’
    The younger Mora said he’s spoken with his father about the statement — ‘‘he regrets it’’ — and went to great lengths to show that he’s still got faith in his quarterback, despite a three-game losing streak that has severely hurt the Falcons’ playoff hopes.
    ‘‘I’m a huge Mike Vick fan. I always have been,’’ the coach said. ‘‘I love the guy. He’s a great player and I think he’s a better person. I don’t care what anybody says about Mike. If I was starting a franchise and I could pick one guy all-time, I would pick Mike Vick. That’s how I feel about it.’’
    But Vick hasn’t performed like a franchise player over the last three weeks, completing less than 50 percent of his throws (44 of 93) with more interceptions (four) than touchdowns (three). In addition, he’s lost two crucial fumbles without being hit by the defense — the first leading to a touchdown in a loss to Detroit, the second ruining hopes of pulling off a comeback win against Cleveland.
    The Falcons (5-5) go into Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints (6-4) in a virtual must-win situation. They can’t afford to drop farther behind their NFC West rival, which already beat Atlanta early in the season.
    Vick and his coach met to discuss the elder Mora’s comments, but it was apparent this bit of criticism stung a little more than normal. Quarterbacks — especially someone as high profile as Vick — are used to getting criticized by the media; they aren’t accustomed to hearing harsh words from the coach’s father.
    ‘‘It’s a different situation,’’ Vick said, shaking his head. ‘‘I’m speechless about it. I never thought he would say it, but it must be the way he feels.’’
    Vick said he was bombarded with phone calls about Mora’s father.
    ‘‘There must have been 50 people calling my number to ask if I heard that comment,’’ the quarterback said. ‘‘It starts to wear on you a little bit. I finally had to cut my phone off. I just want to block it out and come play football. People can think what they want to think, say what they want to say. I’m just Mike Vick. I’ve got to keep doing what I’m doing — love me or hate me.’’
    Vick’s teammates insist that he’s still feeling plenty of love in the locker room, despite the team’s recent woes and the prospect of another second-half collapse like the one that knocked the Falcons out of the playoffs in 2005.
    ‘‘We’re not letting that type of stuff seep inside here,’’ linebacker Ike Reese said. ‘‘We know what Mike means to us as a ballclub. I thought coach Mora handled it well. We’re not going to let any comments — regardless of who it’s from — penetrate our family.’’
    Running back Warrick Dunn said he’s always had plenty of respect for Mora’s father, but ‘‘it was strange that he said that.’’
    ‘‘When you’re a quarterback, you’re going to have that pressure,’’ Dunn added. ‘‘It just comes with the territory a little bit. Mike is going to be fine. He’s not really worried about all that stuff.’’